Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Greatest Show On Earth

Somewhere over the vastness of granite and snow, glaciers and white rivers that is Northern Labrador, I thought to take out my Ipod and listen to Franz Joseph's Haydn's Missa Maria Teresa. We were at 35,000 feet and the day was crystal clear, a blameless iridescence of a sky stretching to infinity.

The music seemed like a perfect accompaniment to the magnificence of the landscape beneath me. Unknown and unknowable. The origin of our species. For surely fire formed this black granite, those inhospitable mountains, the deepest gorges. Fire and ice.

I was moved to tears, the combination of the inpenetrable forbidden landscape that slipped beneath me accompanied by the glorious music of Haydn which has never failed to affect me deeply.

I refused to be frustrated by the idea of flying over my province of Newfoundland and Labrador on my way to New York and then retracing this journey again. A flight that should only take four hours ballooned to 11, plus layovers, plus commutes that tallied to nearly 24 hours of travelling.

The clear azure of the day flooded this incredible panorama: highest mountains and blackest chasms strung with the milky pearls of glaciers and frozen rivers weaving and threading through the tapestry.

The panorama finally slipped away and I took a moment to survey my fellow passengers, hoping to catch the glance of a kindred spirit. All the window blinds on the plane were down apart from mine. Everyone was watching their mini-screens or asleep.

And no one had seen the greatest show on earth beneath their feet: three hours of shattering beauty.


  1. but you helped us to see it. Welcome home! Soon.

  2. i love flying over this always leaves me awestruck...welcome home.

  3. Modern technology has helped to distract us from so many simple pleasures in life. The sounds and sights of nature can be so therapeutic, yet so many prefer the manufactured sounds & fast moving scenes of the thumb controlled games world.

    Welcome home, and again sorry not to have met you during your visit back home to Ireland.

  4. It's odd how people ignore the amazing scenery outside the plane window. I think some people like to pose as blasé travellers who are beyond such vulgar distractions. Well, they're missing a lot.

  5. When I still flew to LA, I used to love flying over this area because it was so desolate and I couldn't imagine a lonelier place on earth. I always had a good look trying to take it all in.

  6. How can you not gaze at the awesome natural beauty below?
    I thought, as I flew above the whispy clouds, "are my fellow passengers nuts not to want to see"?
    Haydn, perfect, why didn't I think of that?
    Just another traveler above time.

  7. I love looking at the scenery below when I'm flying - going over Russia is one of my favourites - the vast Steppes totally devoid of human encroachment.

    Sadly, I was actually told off (by a stewardess) for daring to raise the blinds on my flight over to NZ - apparently the light from outside was stopping other people from sleeping :-(

  8. welcome home. i have no idea why your journey took three times longer than it needed to, but you found beauty in it nonetheless.

  9. Welcome back WWW!

    Thank you for your evocative description of the scene - second best only to being there!

  10. Laurie:
    No direct flights from St. John's to Europe. None. As soon as one starts up, Air Canada puts them out of biz. Scandalous, I know, and with the corrupt collusion of the government.
    The shortest way was to go through Newark, which was horrific and I posted about my experience there.


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